Lao asks Senate panel to reconsider his arrest order but was told to surrender first

Published November 22, 2021, 8:34 PM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Former budget undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao has called on the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to reconsider his arrest order and called for a “non-hostile” Senate inquiry into the government’s alleged procurement of overpriced COVID-19 pandemic supplies from Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation.

But Senate panel chair Senator Richard Gordon said advised former budget undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao to submit himself to the custody of the Senate saying his refusal to attend, despite due notice, “constrained the committee” to cite him for contempt.

In his letter to the panel emailed last Nov. 11, Lao complained that he had religiously appeared and actively participated in the hearings conducted by Gordon’s panel and even attended the parallel investigation of the House of Representatives.

Lao said that during those hearings, he had been candid and truthfully answered all questions thrown at him by the senators.

However, at the hearing, Lao said he was merely “berated, insulted, maligned, pre-judged of having committed a crime and tretaed like a criminal without rights.”

“The proceeding had become more of a prosecution against me and the public’s impression rather than a Senate investigation in aid of legislation,” he said.

Lao claimed he has every intention to participate in the hearing.

“I have never disrespected the Senate and wil continue to give due reverence to its authority and hereby conveys that I am more than willing to attend and testify, if heretofore, called upon in a non-hostile Senate inquiry as I would not willingly put myself into the firing line,” he said.

But Gordon, in his response to Lao, dated Nov. 15, shut down the appeal of the former head of the Department of Budget and Management’s Procurement Service (DBM-PS), saying he made himself “more scarce, exhibiting your lack of respect for legal processes of a duly-constituted authority.”

“If it is your wish that the Committee act on your motion, we suggest that you submit yourself to the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms first at the soonest possible time. In the meantime, the order of arrest will continue to subsist and the search for your person will not cease until the Sergeant-at-arms is able to take you into custody,” Gordon stressed.

“You are a lawyer, and thus, need not be reminded what presumption of flight creates,” he pointed out.

Senators have repeatedly grilled Lao over the Department of Health’s (DOH) transfer of P42-billion to the DBM-PS for the procurement of COVID-19 supplies at the height of the pandemic.

The Senate probers said Lao, who was the DBM-PS’s executive director at the time of the fund transfer, failed to exercise due diligence in checking the financial capabilty of Pharmally which won the P8-billion worth of contract despite being undercapitalized.